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Blog of Sarah McIntyre, children's book writer & illustrator
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1. #portraitchallenge: utamaro

Here's our #PortraitChallenge drawings from last Thursday! This time we were riffing on a 1801 woodblock print by Japanese master Utamaro. I played around, drawing mine without looking at the paper. (Can you spot the messy one?) :)




You can see more over at @StudioTeaBreak.

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2. pugs win independent bookshop week award 2016!

Why are my co-author Philip Reeve and I in Daunt Books Marylebone looking VERY excited?



We'd found out we'd won the children's book category for Pugs of the Frozen North in this year's Independent Bookshop Week Award! It's a celebration of indie bookshops, booksellers, and the amazing way they know their books so well and can stock and recommend just the right titles, and be real hubs in their communities. Besides selling books, indie bookshops have hosted wonderful events for us, knitted pugs, and encouraged us on social media, and we love them.



Philip has already blogged about it, and you can read more about the award in this Guardian article by Emily Drabble and over on the IndieBound website. And there's another article in The Bookseller here, by Lisa Campbell.




Big congrats to Emily MacKenzie, who won the Picture Book category, and Anne Enright, who won the Adult book category. Thanks to all the judges (Nicolette Jones, 2015 winner Sally Nicholls, Steven Pryse from Pickled Pepper Bookshop and Carrie Morris from Booka Bookshop). And thanks, of course, Britain's marvelous indie bookshops!



This kicks off Independent Bookseller Week and the best way to celebrate is to go down to your local indie and buy some books! :) If you don't have a local, Stephen Holland at Page 45 in Nottingham and lots of other shops are more than happy to post things to you. (Stephen's hand-sold SO many copies of Pugs of the Frozen North! Oh, and here's a link to my website in case you want to knit a pug or learn how to draw one.

Louisa Mellor at Den of Geek is compiling a list of top indies so go on over and add your fave if you don't see it there. You can watch developments from the week over on Twitter: #IBW2016

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3. esther marfo

Here's a drawing of the talented lady who makes a lot of my dresses, Esther Marfo.

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4. new handbag i just had to show you

I'm not really a shoes & handbags kind of gal, but Yasmin from the bead shop just set me up with this corker. I love it so much, it looks like some sort of strange carnival teapot. It's sitting by my desk and I keep reaching over affectionately to pat its belly.

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5. raven girl, seagull lady

Happy birthday, Audrey Niffenegger! Audrey taught me how to do etching in her studio in Chicago last summer and I don't have etching facilities here so I tried to fake something that sort of looks like an etching with aquatint.

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6. fashion show with esther marfo

Here are some photos of my very brief modeling career! :D



On Saturday, a few friends and I went along to the fashion show of my amazing tailor Esther Marfo. She makes lots of the dresses I wear to festivals and things, and she's amazing. Here are all her models lined up together.



And Esther herself! If I just draw a picture of the outfit I'm thinking of, she's able to make it, without a pattern or anything.


Photo from Esther Blessed Facebook page

I used to pop in to see Esther all the time at her shop on the high street, but she's since closed shop and started working from home. If you want to commission some work from Esther, you can find her on her Facebook page as Esther Blessed.




(You can see a bit more of her work over on the #EstherMarfo hashtag on Twitter.)




Photo from Esther Blessed Facebook page





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7. interview with irish children's laureate pj lynch!

New Irish Laureate na nOg PJ Lynch is going to be recording a series of interviews with different illustrators, and I was lucky enough to be his first person! Here's a chat we had at Listowel Writers' Week about drawing, influences, a peek at a stage event with Philip Reeve and a tutorial, how to draw one of the pugs from Pugs of the Frozen North. Hope you enjoy it! :)



You can follow PJ Lynch on Twitter: @PJLynchArt

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8. #portraitchallenge: sylvia von harden by otto dix

Thanks to everyone who took part in Thursday's #PortraitChallenge, over on @StudioTeaBreak! Click on the links to see if any more pop up, and here's more information about painter Otto Dix and his 1926 subject, journalist Sylvia von Harden (whose painting self has a brief cameo in the opening of the film Cabaret).




(Here was mine, a bit larger):

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9. ireland: listowel writers' week 2016

This weekend Pugs of the Frozen North met the blazing heat of the west coast of Ireland for Listowel Writers' Week and The National Children's Literary Festival. The lovely Irish even provided us with a splendid pug named Oscar!



Listowel's gorgeous, my co-author Philip Reeve and I had fun wandering around looking at the beautifully painted shop fronts, bakeries and pubs.



And we even got to meet the wee folk! Here I am, after partaking of the 'Drink Me' bottle, meeting the Queen of Listowel.



I didn't get time to do a lot of drawing (other than on stage) but here's a rough one I did after a couple hours at John B. Keane's pub.




Our first event was to a couple hundred kids for a Pugs of the Frozen North schools event. Here's Philip showing off the yellow trousers he uses to scare off polar bears.


Tweeted by Sarah Webb

We got to see some excellent pug drawings...



The following day, we did another Pugs event, then I did a Dinosaur Police picture book event. And I'm VERY SAD I don't have any photos of Philip being Trevor the T-Rex. He did an excellent job.



I did a little experiment for the drawing part of the event; usually I just teach everyone how to draw a T-Rex, but I got a bit more ambitious and thought I'd start them off making their own T-Rex-themed book.



It was quite a stretch, particularly for the concentration span of the youngest children, but their parents were awesome about pitching in and helping, and I actually had a slightly older crowd than usual for this event, so lots of them tackled the project admirably.



In this one you can see the cover, decorated front endpapers, three pages of story, and a back cover with blurb and price tag.



I was impressed with what the kids did and I hope they go away and finish their books, it'd be fun to see how they do it. I told them that the difference between an aspiring author and an author is that an author finishes creating the books. So if they finish making their book, they will be a genuine authors. Which is true! And to be a published author, all they need is to make more than one copy of the book (with a handy photocopier or printer), and that's being self-published. So perhaps we will get a few self-published authors coming out of that event.


Tweeted by Sarah Webb

One of the fun things about book festivals is catching up with friends I've seen in various events around the country in past years. Here's the most excellent Kim Harte, who is a Book Doctor! You can go into her Book Clinic and she will listen to what you're interested in and recommend books you might like. It was very popular, I don't think she had even time for a loo break for four hours!



Here's Ireland's new Children's Laureate na nÓg, illutrator PJ Lynch. Philip and I got to see an exhibition of his work from the span of his career at St John's Theatre in the centre of town. He did a video interview with me about drawing, so maybe I'll get to post that fairly soon.



More fun guests we ran into: Joanne Harris (whom we'd gotten to know a bit at the Emirates Lit Fest a couple years ago)



And Francesca Simon and Steven Butler, whom we actually see fairly often!



Writer Sarah Webb was in charge of Author Care for the children's book part of the festival, and we couldn't have been cared for better. Sarah's one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet, but she also manages to do ten times more than any of us. Here she is with PJ and Alan Nolan (who was very nice in giving us lots of lifts in his car).



It'd been cold in London but Ireland was ROASTING hot. Here's Philip, attempting some extreme sunscreen:



Huge thanks to everyone who helped make the festival run so smoothly!



Here's Liz Dunn, the chair of the festival, who was awesome at making sure we always had good food and drink and introduced us to lots of people.



I wasn't in Ireland very long, but one morning I did manage to get down to the beach at Ballybunnion with Philip right before our event. (Which explains why I'm here in a sea cave in slightly odd beach wear.)



And a few more shots of Philip and me attempting to make the perfect Irish rock album cover.









You can follow Listowel Writers' Week on their Facebook page and Twitter.

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10. treacle, canine life model

Today Elissa and I have a canine life model in the studio!



If you look in the front of Jampires, this cutiepie gets a mention in my picture book with David O'Connell. :) Treacle's surprisingly tricky to draw!

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11. david o'connell & francesca gambatesa: when i'm a monster like you, dad!

So my Jampires co-author David O'Connell has just released another picture book! This time he wrote the book, and HarperCollins teamed him up with illustrator Francesca Gambatesa, and it's all about fathers, and out just in time for Father's Day! :) (Here's a link to it on Francesca's website, where you can see some early sketches of When I'm a Monster Like You, Dad!.)



So a bunch of us went along to Gosh Comics in Soho to celebrate! Gosh are awesome at not only stocking comics, but also a range of other illustrated books, often by people who also make comics. Here's a photo nabbed from Gosh's Facebook page. (I wore my new flourescent jumper, wahey.)




A big congrats to Francesca because, while she's done lots of other illustration work in different formats, this is her first picture book, and it's lovely. Hurrah! (We agreed that picture books are quite a lot of work and take quite a lot of time to illustrate.)



Here's Dave doing a dramatic reading with one of Francesca's pictures on the screen. It's about a little monster who thinks he can have fun being big and scary like his dad as a grownup, but the dad shows his kid how they can have fun together right now.



And then there was a big signing. (Stuart got our copy dedicated to both of us and we shall treasure it.)



Fab to see writer-illustrator friends Laura Ellen Anderson, Jamie Littler and my studio mate Elissa Elwick:



And the crafty artists Sami Teasdale and my former studio mate Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade):



Side note: did you see the amazing phone box cosie that Lauren and Sami knitted for The Clangers?


Photo by David Jensen from Knit The City Facebook page

Thanks to Gosh's lovely Steven Walsh, Nora Goldberg (and Tom Oldham who was manning the basement) for hosting!



And since I was practically the only person who'd never tweeted a selfie from the Gosh loo, that was WHAT I GONE AND DONE.



Huge congrats, Dave and Francesca!

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12. pamela butchart & thomas flintham take top fcbg children's book award!

Hooray for writer Pamela Butchart and illustrator Thomas Flintham whose book yesterday won the Overall Award at the Federation of Children's Book Group's award ceremony in London! What's also awesome is that the media is featuring BOTH the writer and the illustrator in their coverage!

This dual coverage doesn't happen by chance; publisher Nosy Crow has been very active in the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign and making sure illustrators are credited, and the FCBG people writing the press releases must have been on the case about it. Media journalists may even be wising up! So big thanks to everyone who's making this happen! :)


Screenhshot photos: BBC Breakfast tweeted by @bookloverJo and CBBC Newsround by @Pamela_Butchart

Here are a few more photos from yesterday's ceremony. Thanks for inviting me, Louise Stothard from FCBG! And thanks to Jane Etheridge, Sarah Stuffins and everyone else on the FCBG team who made it happen. It was fun running into lovely be-frocked authors Pamela and Jeanne Willis at the front door of the Union Jack Club:




Here are Thomas and Pamela winning their 'Books for Younger Readers' category award:



And then the Overall Award:



I got to meet author Sarah Crossan for the first time (who also won in her 'Books for Older Readers' category):



And writer-illustrator Richard Byrne:



The kids and their FCBG leaders put together beautiful albums of artwork and letters about each book and I caught a glimpse of Richard's:



And Viv Schwarz's (whose Is there a Dog in This Book? won the 'Books for Younger Children' category award):



Steven Butler did a fab job presenting... (Oh look, it's Walker Books editor Lizzie Spratt!)



And Korky Paul drew up an absolute storm on kids' lunch napkins (sadly not shown here):



Readers presenting albums to Guy Parker-Rees and Gareth Edwards:



And to Tony Ross and Francesca Simon:



Adrian Reynolds and Jeanne Willis:



Author Kim Slater:


Author Polly Ho-Yen tweeted a couple photos:



Oo, look at those hooligans at the back... I spot my studio mate Elissa Elwick and her new picture-book-partner-in-crime, beardy Philip Ardagh.



I just went along to see people, none of my books were up for awards. But indie bookseller Tales on Moon Lane cheerfully provided them anyway and it was fun getting to meet readers who loved them and those who were just about to dive in.



Thanks to Carousel editor David Blanche for slipping me a copy of Carousel and making Philip Reeve 'n' me look dead famous in front of a bunch of kids. :)




Hugs all 'round, a lovely sunny afternoon.



You can read more about the shortlist and awards over on the FCBG blog here.

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13. draw it! colour it! beasts

A whole bunch of us have a new activity/colouring book coming out on 8 Sept, Draw It! Colour It! Beasts! Here's my two pages in it:


You can pre-order it on lots of book websites or you can buy our first book now, Draw It! Colour It! Creatures. It's fun being included with so many other amazing illustrators.

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14. #picturesmeanbusiness: herald scotland

If you're in Scotland, look out for a copy of today's Herald, I have an article in it! You can also read it online here:

herald article

Yesterday's #PortraitChallenge got me fired up to do some more pictures with actual paint. I've been doing a lot of digital work, and sometimes digital works best for me, but then I miss working with real paper in front of me the whole time. Here's a not-very-accurate self portrait, painted in watercolour, and when it was just pencil linework.



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15. thursday #portraitchallenge: ignatius sancho by allan ramsay



Here's my #PortraitChallenge for today! It's a 1750s portrait of Ignatius Sancho, painted by Allan Ramsay. (You can find out more about it here.) Check @StudioTeaBreak to see other people's drawings!

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16. reeve & mcintyre book 4... finished!

Hooray!
I finally finished illustrating my upcoming book with Philip Reeve, Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair!

The book's not finished; Jo Cameron still has to do a lot of placement work with all the files I've had to fix because there were little picture mistakes, and Liz Cross is checking with the proof reader that there aren't any text mistakes, and then it has to go the printer, etc. With Cakes in Space, Liz, Clare Whitston and Jo had to send the books back to the printer because I'd used SO much heavy ink with all the black outer-space stuff that the pages didn't have enough time to dry and went wrinkly! (But the printer fixed it and everything was okay in the end.)



For Bologna Book Fair, the OUP book team printed up a sampler with the first three chapters, so here's a little peek at them. These are what are called the 'endpapers', even though they're right in the beginning and set the scene.



Philip really likes the slappy satellite. (I'm not sure why it's slappy, I just stuck a glove on it to make it look more interesting.)



And here's Emily, in her bedroom on Funfair Moon!



Emily's based very much on my studio mate Elissa Elwick and Emily wants to be a funfair engineer more than anything in the world. (Not our world, an alien world that's all funfair.)



That's Elissa on the right in the yellow, celebrating with cake, and craft team Lauren O'Farrell (who designed the knitted Pug, Sea Monkey and Jampire patterns) and her working partner Sami Teasdale.



The book doesn't come out 'til September but I'm already excited! Go go Jo and Liz and book team! :D

Edit: Here's a photo just in from designer Jo, who is ON THE CASE! :D

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17. scottish friendly children's book tour 2016

All this week I've been on an illustration book tour of the Scottish Highlands! At first I thought I was going to have to do it solo, but I asked Beth Bottery at Scottish Book Trust if I could bring Stuart along and she said yes. Then all my knitted book characters decided they wanted to come along, too.



This is the first time I've ever gone on an extended tour with Stuart! And he wasn't just tagging along, he was WORKING. In fact, I thought I'd let him do the blogging. So... OVER TO STUART:

Hi, everyone! My first job was help Doug the Pug sharpen up his drawing skills in anticipation of all the pictures he was going to be making during the course of the week. He drew some pictures on the train.



Here's one he did of me!




And here's one he did of the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. You can't get more Scottish than that.



Our first port of call was GLASGOW, to see Sarah's auntie.



On Sunday, Beth Bottery and Thomas Jefferson from Scottish Book Trust came to pick us up and drove us all the way to Thurso, right in the north of Scotland.



Here they are in the wilds of the Highlands.



Here are a couple of snapshots of Thurso in late evening.





MONDAY, 9 May:

My first stage appearance was at Mount Pleasant Primary School in Thurso (coordinated by Suzanne Urquhart) and Pennyland Primary came along, too. Here I am with Sarah in my new role as PROFESSOR SNOWSTORM!



I'm supposed to know a lot about the different types of snow in Sarah and Philip Reeve's book Pugs of the Frozen North. Being on stage was exciting but also a bit nerve-racking. Luckily I didn't mess up too many of my lines.



Here are some books the children made in advance, which are pretty impressive.





For the afternoon, Miller Academy Primary School (and Pat Ramsay) hosted us, along with visiting school Melvich Primary. At each visit we created a board game, featuring a race to the North Pole from the school. We wanted to give them ideas on creating a story, how (like a board game) it needs a beginning, an end, and perils in the middle. This group game up with some really unusual perils, culminating in the greatest peril: Donald Trump.



We also met Reading Champion Alex Patience, who works with the kids on this reading scheme.



On a beautiful evening - tropical for Thurso! - Sarah made a new friend named Kali.




TUESDAY, 10 MAY:

We visited Castletown Primary School, just outside Thurso, with the visit coordinated by Rhona Moodie. Having a day's practice, I was beginning to get into my character a bit more. Things didn't seem to be quite so scary, particularly when the class was a bit smaller.



Tom took us to a roadside cafe for lunch, just outside Wick, The Rumblin' Tum. It felt like something you might find in the Australian outback.



Sarah took this photo of Tom and me and mystery guest in the background.



In the afternoon, we were at Noss Primary School (which was only a few weeks old!), with Watten Primary visiting. Headmaster Ally Budge had really researched Sarah and Beth told us he'd filled out the application form for the visit in Russian! (Sarah and I both speak some Russian.) This was our largest event yet, with more than 200 children. The school gave Sarah a very thoughtful Russian-themed gift, Baggage by Marshak & Lebedev.



We drove on to Tain and stayed in the Royal Hotel, which was very grand.



Tain was lovely, with some very striking buildings.



We had dinner at the restaurant at Tain railway station. Sarah shot this video because she thought Beth had a wonderful Hull accent.



During the week the four of us did some drawing challenges. Here's our #ShapeChallenge drawings. (Can you guess who drew which one?) Sarah sets daily Shape Challenges on Twitter which you can discover at @StudioTeaBreak.





WEDNESDAY, 11 May:

In the morning we visited Knockbreck Primary School in Tain (coordinated by Mhairi Miller), with Dornoch Academy visiting. Sarah drew this picture of her and Doug the Pug but she forgot to take any more photos.



After lunch, we headed to Strathpeffer Primary School (hosted by Carolyn Ritchie and Mr Spence), with visiting school Mulbuie St Clements.



The afternoon was so sunny that we sat out on the lawn of our hotel and did a Comic Jam together. Here are some teaching videos if you want to learn how to do a Comic Jam in your school.



Beth shot this video of the Comic Jam at different stages.





THURSDAY, 12 May:

Our first stop was Teanassie Primary School (with Sharon Gallacher), with visiting school Beauly Primary, which was our most intimate event with just over 30 children. When we drove in, we saw the chickens and three pigs the school raise.



Everyone on our tour loved knitted Doug the Pug, designed by Lauren O'Farrell (aka Deadly Knitshade). Here's the link if anyone wants to download the free pattern from Sarah's website. And here are some of the pugs the children drew at Teanassie:



In the afternoon we arrived in Inverness to visit Drakies Primary School (coordinated by Rebecca Fleming), with visiting school Bun-sgoil Ghàidhlig Inbhir Nis. Drakies were very excited about the visit and prepared some posters to advertise Sarah's event to the other children. Sarah was so pleased!



Drakies even tweeted to Sarah before the event (@DrakiesPS). She loves it when teachers and pupils prepare things before the visit and this group made lots of great stuff.











Even after the visit, this mum sent us a picture which made us all go 'Awww'.



On Sarah's drawing challenge @StudioTeaBreak, Thursday is #PortraitChallenge day. Here's a family portrait of pop stars if they were animals.





FRIDAY, 13 MAY

My costume for the week included wearing this pair of yellow trousers. Don't park on my double yellow lines!



For our final day, we began at Crown Primary School in Inverness, organised by James Cook.



The school had a blog up by the same evening! We got some very encouraging feedback from the teachers, including one who said in twelve years of teaching, it was the best event she had seen and gave the teachers lots of ideas of things to do with the kids later.



And finally, Hilton Primary School (with Amy Fraser) and visiting school Cradlehall Primary. We received a warm welcome from the dinner ladies!



The dinner ladies even baked us banana flapjack! This was our biggest event. It will be funny telling my colleagues back at work what I've been doing all week.



Here are cards Sarah drew for Tom and Beth, thanking them for all their hard work. Thank you very much, guys!! And to all the schools who hosted us, Scottish Book Trust, and our sponsors Scottish Friendly.



This was a never-to-be-forgotten week! It gave me a whole new perspective of Sarah's work. I hope all the children we met go away and do a lot more drawing, writing and reading. I might try to do some more drawing, too!

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18. almost finished

I've almost finished illustrating Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair! I ought to celebrate by tidying my desk.

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19. scottish book trust: apology for pugs

Uh... did you see Johnny Depp and his wife saying sorry for smuggling their pet dogs into Australia? It was a bit strange.



Well, I'm doing a Pugs of the Frozen North book tour of the Scottish Highlands in May, and Scottish Book Trust are already issuing their own apologies...

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20. intrigues on romney marsh: the body on the doorstep

Huge congratulations to the two writers who are AJ MacKenzie, whose exciting-looking book comes out today! I first met Canadian husband-wife team Marilyn Livingstone & Morgen Witzel at the wonderful Emirates Festival of Literature in Dubai; we spent a lot of meals together and they were fascinating. Morgan had some great tales about growing up in the wilds of British Columbia and Marilyn's been writing as a medieval historian for 25 years; she and Morgan decided to try something new, diving into the 18th century and trying their hand at crime fiction, something page-turning and fast-paced but still very much grounded in history.

the body on the doorstep

Here's the cover art, designed by Jet Purdie (who won and had two titles shortlisted for the most recent Kitschies Inky Tentacle cover awards) and he commissioned the illustration from Head Design. And here's the blurb:

Shocked to discover a dying man on his doorstep - and lucky to avoid a bullet himself - Reverend Hardcastle finds himself entrusted with the victim's cryptic last words. With smuggling rife on England's south-east coast, the obvious conclusion is that this was a falling out among thieves. But why is the leader of the local Customs service so reluctant to investigate? Ably assisted by the ingenious Mrs Chaytor, Hardcastle sets out to solve the mystery for himself. But smugglers are not the only ones to lurk off the Kent coast, and the more he discovers, the more he realises he might have bitten off more than he can chew.

I had a couple questions for AJ MacKenzie:

Marilyn and Morgan, I can't wait to read this new book! What are a couple of the most exciting bits of the history that made you want to write it?

The 1790s were quite a dangerous and (if you don’t have to live in them) exciting time. Romney Marsh, where The Body on the Doorstep is set, was rife with smuggling and dark nights would see parties of smugglers landing on the beaches and carrying cargoes of gin and brandy inland over the Marsh, pursued by the Preventive men, the law enforcement officers of the day.



Then there was the threat of invasion from France, which by the mid-1790s was becoming very real. There is a earlier Hogarth print at the Fitzwilliam Museum that shows hordes of ravening Frenchmen threatening to descend on England:



It looks sort of comical, but in fact the threat was very real and was taken seriously; there were plenty of invasion scares. From Romney Marsh, you can see the French coast on a clear day. In the next picture, the line of clouds is where France begins; it’s only about thirty-five miles.




A lot of French refugees washed up on the coast of Kent after the French Revolution began. But which refugees were genuinely fleeing the Terror, and which ones were actually enemy agents? A lot of this begins to sound rather familiar, doesn’t it?

Finally, there were a few historical characters we could bring in and play with. One was the painter JMW Turner, just starting out on his illustrious career. During the early 1790s, Turner often came to the Kent coast to paint the sea. This is one of his early works, Fishermen at Sea, on show at the Tate. The Tate say this was painted near the Isle of Wight. But who is to say he didn’t make a little unrecorded trip to Romney Marsh around the same time?


'Fishermen at Sea' by Turner, 1796 from Tate Britain collection

Where and how you and Morgen work?

We work in all sorts of places. What we don’t tend to do is lock ourselves in a room and write together. There are several reasons for this; chief among them being that we both listen to music as we write, but very different kinds of music. Marilyn likes mathematical music like Bach and Purcell, or modern performers like Ms Dynamite. Morgen listens to gloomy Central European music from the late nineteenth century. Each person’s music would drive the other crazy.



In fact we mostly work by talking, working out plots and characters and ideas and conversations, and we can do that anywhere. We often sit opposite each other in these two chairs in our sitting room, talking and reading text to each other.



If the weather is fine (not always a given in the West Country) we go outside. The beaches of west Cornwall and the tors of Dartmoor are some of our favourite places to work.



After all, we live in a beautiful part of the world; why not take advantage of it for inspiration and ideas?



Thanks, guys! You can read a lot more about The Body on the Doorstep and The Romney Marsh Mysteries over on the AJ MacKenzie website and blog. And you can follow them on Twitter: @AJMacKnovels. (They're very friendly; feel free to ask them questions.) Right now you can buy the first book in hardcover and for Kindle, and the paperback comes out in August. (I ordered mine from Tales on Moon Lane, through the Hive Books button on the AJ MacKenzie website.) Published by Zaffre.

Age appropriateness: Aimed at adults but might be accessible to high-school/secondary-school kids and secondary school libraries. No sex, some violence, quite a lot of bad language (mostly f***).

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21. announcing... THE PRINCE OF PANTS!

HURRAH!! I'm finally allowed to share the new Scholastic UK book I have coming out in September... with writer Alan MacDonald... THE PRINCE OF PANTS!!!



I've had SOOO much fun working on this book, it's a great big loony feast of PANTS and strange corgis and fat ponies and lots more... Here's one of the pages of watercolour artwork on my desk: little Prince Pip trying to find out where all his pants have disappeared to.



Now here's a funny thing: I had a contract to do a picture book with Scholastic UK and I was so busy on the Pugs book that when the time rolled around, my editor Pauliina Malinen was like, 'So where's your picture book text?' And I was like, 'UH.' And then, 'I'll write one, let me get back to you soon!!' And Pauliina was like, 'Well... I have this absolutely amazing script from Alan MacDonald that you could illustrate, I think it's perfect for you.' And I was like, 'No no no, I'm going to write my own book, just you see. ...But hey wait, let me just have a little peek at it anyway.'

And then I read it. And started laughing.

And suddenly saw all the awesome ways Alan had packed in room for me to make loads of little visual jokes and I was like, 'Oh my goodness, I HAVE to illustrate this book, gimme gimme gimme'. And Pauliina was thrilled, and my new designer Strawberrie Donnelly has turned out to be ACE to work with. I'm proud that we got their names in the credits, too!



The Prince of Pants doesn't come out until September - arghh!! (here's a Hive pre-order page and Waterstones) - but in the meantime, I'm going to TRACK DOWN THAT ALAN MACDONALD because weirdly I have still never met him and it feels bizarre not having met my co-author. Lucky Alan is in for a McIntyre Invasion.

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22. #portraitchallenge: gainsborough's georgiana

Thursday's #PortraitChallenge was Thomas Gainsborough's famous portrait of Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire (which I've seen on a visit to Chatsworth House). Mine's a Pegasus-wrangling cowgirl because why not. :) You can find out more about portraits and #PortraitChallenge here on my earlier blog post.



Visit @StudioTeaBreak on Twitter to see a gallery of everyone's drawings! We're back to the #ShapeChallenge today. Do jump in, all ages and drawing abilities are very welcome! It's fun seeing whole families get involved. I love seeing all the variations!


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23. #portraitchallenge: lady shakespeare



Well, that's my fancy dress sorted for Shakespeare's 400th birthday party! Today's #PortraitChallenge was this engraving by Martin Droeshout, tweeted by the British Museum. Their website says it's 'from the Third Folio of Shakespeare’s works of 1663–1664 and was originally engraved for the title page to the First Folio, published in 1623. It is therefore one of the earliest portraits of Shakespeare.' (Read more here.) Lots of people have taken part; check out their pictures over at @StudioTeaBreak!

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24. bodiam castle

Today was Bank Holiday Monday and Stuart and I hiked from Robertsbridge rail station to Bodiam Castle in Sussex.



Bodiam's great, it's sort of how you imagine a castle to be when you're a kid. A real classic.



I just thought I'd post a few photos in case you're ever considering taking a trip there. You can even get a steam train from Tenterden station; maybe we'll try that some other time.








Old graffiti in one of the towers:



Yay bluebells!



Twitter tells this is a raft of some sort.

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25. happy birthday, little sister!

We love each other, really, but we have odd ways of showing it.

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